If you’re heading over to the Italian city any time soon, be sure to pop over to the Achille Castiglioni Foundation
His name might not ring a bell with the average man in the street. In fact, said man might even find the name – Achille Castiglioni (1918–2002) – a bit of a tongue-twister. (For reference, it’s pronounced Ah-key-lay Kass-tea-lee-oni).
But chances are, if you show said man an image of an iconic Castiglioni design, such as the Arco lamp, his face will light up in recognition. Conceived in 1962, the lamp is a near-ubiquitous component of any modern interior design scheme.
It remains Castiglioni’s most successful – if widely copied – design. The Arco and other designs, along with the genius of Castiglioni himself, are being celebrated in two exhibitions in 2018 – the 100th anniversary of Castiglioni’s birth year. After graduating from the Polytechnic of Milan in 1944, Castiglioni set up his own design office with brothers Pier Giacomo and Livio (who left the partnership in 1952). Castiglioni continued to pursue an active career right up until his death at the age of 84.
The exhibitions are the brainchild of the designer’s children Giovanna and Carlo, who run the Achille Castiglioni Foundation in Milan. The Foundation is located at the designer’s former studio in Milan (Piazza Castello 27, near the city’s landmark Sforza Castle).
The first exhibition, 100×100 Achille, opened on 19 February and ran until 30 April. Held at the Foundation, the exhibition was a reminder of his playful nature.
Giovanna and Carlo invited 100 of the world’s leading designers and architects to send their late father a birthday gift. But there was a caveat. The gift had to be an everyday object that couldn’t be traced to a specific designer or brand.
Philippe Starck responded with a paper clip. Patricia Urquiola sent a profilometer, a device that measures the roughness of a surface. Marcel Wanders submitted a paper festoon. And Alessandro Mendini contributed a shepherd’s hat from northern Italy.
Castiglioni – who had a habit of collecting anonymously designed, functional objects – would undoubtedly have been elated by this treasure trove. There are plans for 100×100 Achille to travel abroad, although no further details were available at press time.
The second exhibition, Dimensione Domestica, Atto III (Domestic Dimension, Act III) runs from 25 May to 21 December. Also held at the Foundation, this one offers an insight into the designer’s personal life by recreating his studio and dining room as it was in 1984.
That year, Castiglioni’s one-man show opened at the Museum fur Angewandte Kunst in Vienna. It later travelled to some of the world’s most important cultural institutions, including Berlin’s Akademie der Kunst, Milan’s Triennale and Paris’s Centre Georges Pompidou.
Meanwhile, also on display at the Foundation are items and furnishings produced by companies historically associated with Castiglioni, such as Alessi and Zanotta. Alessi is showcasing its iconic Bavero tea cups, special versions of its Dry flatware, and fruit bowl/colander. Zanotta is presenting its Albero plant stand and a special edition of the Servomuto side table.